The next morning, I was up and out of the house before sunrise. I was headed down to the beach again with my fishing rod in hand, hoping to get in a good few hours before I had to go to school. I wondered briefly if James would be attending the high school with me from now on.
A light, steady rain had started falling by the time I reached the beach. Certainly not ideal conditions, but it would take nothing short of a thunderstorm to stop me going out this morning. At least this way, I was guaranteed some alone time.
Or so I thought.
In fact, my ‘alone time’ was cut short after only half an hour of fishing by the crunching of wet sand behind me, indicating the presence of another morning beachgoer. I pretended not to see them as they approached me, hoping that they would go away, and at the same time wondering who else would be crazy enough to be outside at this time and in this weather. Whoever it was stopped several feet away, and I could feel them watching me for several seconds before they spoke.
Shocked at hearing that voice, I turned to face him.
“James?” What was he doing here? And why was he talking to me?
“Yeah, it’s me,” he said. He sounded nervous about something. “Listen, Bianca, about yesterday… I realise I wasn’t very friendly. I’m not that great with new people, and Tyler…” He paused, as if searching for the right words, then apparently changed his mind and continued hurriedly, “Anyway, I just wanted to say I’m sorry.” He paused again, watching me for my reaction. Honestly, I didn’t know what to say. It was true that he hadn’t talked very much, but I hadn’t thought of it as unfriendliness.
“Oh, um, that’s okay I guess,” I managed. He nodded, and the two of us stood there in awkward silence for a few moments before he spoke again.
“So that’s, um… yeah. That’s all I wanted to say. I’ll see you around, Bianca.” He turned around and began to walk back up the beach. I watched him go for a few seconds before an impulse seized me and I called after him.
I jogged to catch up, as he turned around to face me again with a look of confusion on his face. “Um… yeah?”
“I, uh…” Come to think of it, I didn’t actually know what I was trying to say myself. But I had to say something, now that I had his attention. “How did you know I was here?”
He hesitated before answering. “Actually, I didn’t,” he said. “I just like to come down here in the mornings to be by myself for a while, and when I saw you were here and remembered what happened yesterday, I thought I’d come and talk to you. To say I was sorry.”
So he liked the isolation as well. I figured he was just the sort of person, like me, who needed his own space. I smiled at him. “I like to be alone here, too,” I said.
“Oh.” I waited for him to say something else, but clearly he wasn’t a great conversationalist. I had opened my mouth to try and keep the conversation going when he suddenly interrupted me. “Wait, sorry, that was a hint! Got it. I’ll leave you alone then.”
He turned to walk away a second time, looking embarrassed. It took me a moment to realise what he meant.
“Oh! No, James, wait!” I grabbed his arm instinctively to stop him going any further. Gosh, I was an idiot. I had thought I wanted to get to know this guy, and here I was driving him away by telling him I wanted to be alone. “That wasn’t what I meant at all!” I tried to explain. “I just meant, that’s something we have in common… that we enjoy the solitude.”
“Oh,” he smiled, looking relieved. “I thought you were trying to get rid of me. Wouldn’t be the first time,” he added in an undertone. I wondered what he meant, but I wasn’t sure if I should ask. Eventually, my curiosity got the better of me.
“What do you mean?”
“It’s nothing, really,” he assured me, but I kept looking at him curiously, so he sighed a little and went on. “Back in Sunset Valley, most people wouldn’t give us the time of day. They didn’t want to have much to do with us, because our clothes were old and shabby, and because our mum-” He stopped abruptly, as if he had said more than he meant to, and hurriedly tried to correct himself. “Our mum, uh, wasn’t very nice,” he concluded lamely. I knew that wasn’t what he had meant to say, but he was clearly uncomfortable so I decided to let it rest and concentrate on the rest of what he had said.
“People wouldn’t talk to you because of your clothes?”
He looked relieved as he answered me. “Yeah, they’re all kind of up themselves. It might be different here, but it’s a celebrity town so I’m not holding my breath.” As much as I liked Bridgeport, I had to agree with him there. A lot of the citizens, especially the ones on this side of the bridge where all the expensive houses were, were complete snobs. I wondered how James and Tyler’s family had even been able to afford a house in this area, since they didn’t strike me as being overly wealthy. I decided not to ask.
“Were they the same with Tyler?” I asked instead, and James nodded sadly.
“Yeah, she didn’t have many friends when we were there. She likes it better here already, she told me so. She likes you,” he added with a smile.
“I’m flattered,” I said. Given how close they seemed to be, I was surprised that Tyler wasn’t with him everywhere they went. “Where is she at the moment?”
“At home,” he responded. “Speaking of which, I should probably get back. She’ll be worried if she gets up and I’m not there. It was nice talking to you, Bianca.”
“You too,” I smiled. He turned away and started jogging back up the beach. This time, he slowed down to look back as he left, in spite of the still falling rain, and waved.
I packed up my fishing equipment as quickly as I could, hoping that I’d get another chance to fish by myself some other day. I ran all the way home to try and get out of the rain, but I’d been standing in it for an hour already fishing and talking to James, and by the time I got back I was soaked. Mum wasn’t too happy, but Dad just gave me a plate of pancakes then left to get me a towel. I could always count on him to look out for me when I wasn’t looking out for myself.
I decided to leave early for school, to catch the bus that went past the subway station instead of the usual one that stopped in front of our house. I had a feeling that James and Tyler might be starting school today, and I wanted to be there. I had just dried myself off at home, so I was glad that it wasn’t raining anymore as I walked down the road to the bus stop. I grinned when I saw it from the top of the hill – even from a distance, I could recognise two white-blond heads shining in the sunlight next to the subway.
“Fancy seeing you here,” I said with a grin five minutes later as I sat down on the bench next to James, who indeed looked quite surprised to see me.
“Bianca! Hi… I guess you’re going to school too?”
“Yeah,” I confirmed, deciding that now wasn’t the moment for sarcastic responses. “I don’t usually come this way, but I thought you guys might and I wanted to come see you off.”
“Oh, thanks. That’s… nice of you.”
“Is it bad that I’m here?” I asked, worried by his hestitation.
“Bad? No, just unexpected.” He returned my smile, and I felt relieved.
“Hi, Bianca! I didn’t know you were here!” Tyler’s excited voice interrupted our conversation, and I turned in my seat to greet her.
“Hey Tyler,” I laughed. “Are you starting school here today as well?”
“You bet!” she confirmed with a grin. “Does this mean we’re going to see you every day?”
I smiled at her. “If you want to.”
She nodded eagerly.
“Where do you usually take the bus?” James asked.
“There’s a bus stop right outside our house,” I told him. “I live up on that hill, but you can’t see it from here.” I pointed over my shoulder to indicate the vague direction of my house.
As he turned in his seat to look, the bus appeared over the crest of the hill, turned to corner and pulled up to the station in front of us. We stood up and waited for several people to disembark before we got on. The bus wasn’t very crowded at this time of day, so we were able to get three seats together and continued talking on the ride to school.
What started as a one-time bus change became a regular thing from that day onwards. Every morning, I left the house fifteen minutes earlier than my siblings, so I could walk down to the subway station and catch the bus with James and Tyler. While we waited for the bus, the three of us could sit on the bench by the station and talk. I felt like I was getting closer to both of them with every day that passed.
While Tyler hadn’t changed very much from the outgoing and bubbly personality she revealed on our first meeting, James had slowly opened up to me over the next few weeks. He turned out to be very funny and engaging in conversation, a trait hindered only by his awkwardness in meeting new people. In many ways, I found that his character was more akin to mine than to his sister’s; we shared a sense of humour as well as a fondness for quiet and solitude. Over the months we spent together, he and his sister ended up becoming two of my closest friends.
Sometimes on the weekends, the three of us would go out to the beach together in the times when I would previously have been fishing by myself. I still fished, but now it was with friends.
I was getting better, too, and starting to catch bigger and bigger fish. At the same time as searching for a perfect fish in each species, I wanted to catch enough to stock the pond I wanted to build in the garden at home. If I had enough fish to build a population there, I would be able to fish at home whenever I wanted. The idea sounded like paradise to me.
Often while I was fishing, James played on the beach with Tyler to keep her busy. As much as I loved spending time with them, James knew better than anyone how much I would appreciate a bit of solitude once in a while to really concentrate on what I was doing. Tyler didn’t complain – she loved me, but she adored her brother. It was really sweet watching the two of them together; the bond they shared was closer than any two siblings I had ever seen.
The evenings were the only times when I really had a chance to be alone and focus on myself and doing what I loved. The fish seemed more active around sunset, and I got all my best catches then. Now that I was close to graduating, I would be able to spend much more time at the beach this Summer, working towards my dreams of catching the perfect fish. I knew I would achieve it someday… I was strong, happy, invincible. Exactly the way I wanted to be.